By Rebekah Zaveloff, Houzz
A Houzz reader recently posted this question: "What do you do if you're renting, and your kitchen needs a good makeover? We're allowed to paint, but we can't do anything about the awful ceiling, the insanely bad layout, or the random peninsula that clearly came off the Starship Enterprise. Any thoughts for those of us who are renting and don't want to put TOO much money into a kitchen that isn't technically theirs?" After taking a look at the reader's kitchen photo, my answer is: Absolutely! See below for 7 ways to enhance your kitchen without a big investment in your time and money. These may not be rentals, but they help illustrate what you can do.
Paint the cabinets. It may seem silly to spend the time, money and effort to paint kitchen cabinets that don't belong to you ... but if you're planning on being in this rental for awhile, it's worth it. I've heard the argument about over-improving something that isn't yours, but the truth is, the space and the time you'll be spending in it is yours. If you're like me, environment has huge impact on your happiness and well-being. One weekend of sweat equity and a few gallons of paint will give you a year of happiness. Related: How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro
I've painted every apartment I've ever lived in, and there have been more than two dozen of them. I don't regret a single one, and even though my landlords said I'd have to paint it white before I moved out, everyone who came to see it as a potential replacement renter wanted to keep the painting as is, so I never had to! That said, go neutral. Don't get crazy and paint the cabinets orange or green, not only will you get sick of it, but your landlord will make you paint them white before you move out and that's so not worth it.
If you really don't want a white kitchen, then paint the cabinets a neutral sage-gray. Remember to prime before painting as well. And if you're looking to save time and money, just paint the doors and frames, leave the insides as they are, and put down shelf and drawer liners.
Or just paint the insides of your cabinets. If you're game, take the doors off a few of the wall cabinets and paint the frames and exteriors white and the interiors a contrasting color. But remember to save the doors and hinges in a place you can find them again when your landlord wants you to put them back on before you move out.
Replace your laminate counters with butcher block. This is a great and affordable fix that is well worth the effort of taking out the sink and hiring a plumber. Butcher block is natural, neutral and terrific. It may not be the best for the long term, depending on how well it's maintained, but if you're looking for something cheap and stylish, this is your answer.
Add a butcher block island. If you're not crazy about the idea of changing out the countertops, then buy a island with a butcher block top that you can take with you when you move. In the case of our Houzz reader's question, a freestanding butcher block is the perfect way to finish off the end of the cabinets where they plan to remove the "Starship Enterprise peninsula."
Replace the acoustical ceiling tiles with tin ceiling tiles. This is the big winner in my opinion. Dropped ceilings with acoustical tile are never attractive, and there's really no way to disguise them. There are some phenomenal products out there that look like tin ceilings but fit into the dropped ceiling grid. This is definitely an great option - though you'll being putting some cash towards it, and effort, it's well worth it.
Tile your backsplash with something affordable and timeless. White subway tile from your local home improvement center is about as close to a cheap thrill as you can get. Tiling is definitely a job that any DIY'er can do which a little research and reading. Again, don't let that nagging feeling of worry about over-improving get in your way. It will make you happy every day that you live there if you have a crisp, new backsplash.